Off-color: Hillary Clinton and NYC mayor spoof ‘Colored People Time’ joke, backlash ensues
At events like the annual Inner Circle Dinner, a New York City spectacle bringing together those from the arts, media, and politics, there are always groan-generating jokes and awkward arrangements, but on Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio took it into cringeworthy territory with a racially charged wisecrack.
And it wasn’t when de Blasio called Clinton his “homegirl.”
In their sketch, Clinton comes on stage to join de Blasio and Broadway actor Leslie Odom Jr., who was depicting Aaron Burr from the play Hamilton. Odom happens to be black, and that fact is not ignored in the context of the script they all acted out.
“I just have to say thanks for the endorsement, Bill. Took you long enough,” Clinton said to de Blasio upon her entrance. The New York City mayor was Clinton’s campaign manager during her successful 2000 campaign for a Senate seat in the state, so an issue was made of the fact he endorsed her long after other prominent politicos in the state. Anyway.
“Sorry Hillary, I was running on CP time,” de Blasio said, referencing “colored people time” or “black people time” as it’s also known. “CP time” or “CPT” is a joke about black people always being late, and although it has been adopted as a joke by other minority groups as well, it has also been picked up by racists who don’t use it in a kidding fashion.
“That’s not — I don’t like jokes like that, Bill,” Odom reacted on stage, still scripted.
And then Clinton to the rescue: “Cautious politician time? I’ve been there.”
The crowd largely reacted with silence, though guffaws and gasps are plainly heard. Twitter, however, was a different story, as many Bernie Sanders supporters pounced. While much of the crowd was made up of the media, many initial reports failed to mention the joke.
It may have all been in good fun, but the scene follows an incident this past Thursday in Philadelphia, where Bill Clinton argued with Black Lives Matters protesters for several minutes about his wife’s “super predators” comment from 1996, about violent youth in relation to the 1994 crime bill, which as law, grew prison populations, especially among blacks.
"I don't know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out onto the street to murder other African-American children,” Bill Clinton told the protesters, before adding, "You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter."
With little more than a week left before the next presidential primary, it remains unclear if or how Clinton’s racially sensitive joke will impact the race. Sanders has won the last seven primaries, but New York is expected to be an easy win for Clinton and it would substantially add to her delegate lead.
Mayor de Blasio has received criticism as well, though the last time he delved into race he was the one pointing out unfair treatment of people of color. Married to a black woman, he has been public about giving advice to their mixed race children.
“If a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do. Don’t move suddenly. Don’t reach for your cellphone,” is what de Blasio told ABC he taught his children “early on,” he said, “Because we knew, sadly, there’s a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color.”